Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Here is one of the better “Giant Mutated Radioactive Insect!” movies of that crazy age. It was actually the first “big bug!” film. If this seems like damning with faint praise, it’s not, really. I sort of dug a lot of them when they were new, and still like some of them. People of today will sneer at the big ants, but they are actually done pretty well, and let me tell you, when I saw this at the Saturday matinee there was not a dry seat in the house, including mine. The film avoids most of the scientific howlers prevalent in these movies. (Let’s just forget all about that inconvenient old square-cube law, which says none of these monsters could even walk, much less terrorize Tokyo or, in this case, Arizona and Los Angeles. Why spoil the fun?) Here we have some characters who are well-written and not stupid, namely James Whitmore and James Arness, only a few months away from stardom. We also see Fess Parker, who was also about to become a big star, and apparently Leonard Nimoy is in it, though we couldn’t spot him. We did see Richard Deacon, the long-suffering Mel Cooley from The Dick Van Dyke Show, and good old Dub Taylor. The build-up is good, with mysterious, horrible goings-on in the desert, and tracking down the escaped queen ants is done well. Best of all is the finding and final killing of the ants in the 700 miles of catacombs branching off the Los Angeles River, which made us homesick for LA. Giant ants be damned! (Footnote: Though this is a black and white movie, the first few frames, where the giant, flaming title comes zooming at you, the letters are in red!)